to Mourning Communicants
"Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?" (Job 12:9)
God has been addressing a twofold voice today to those
who have gathered at His Holy Table.
To some, He has been speaking in prosperity. New gourds
have been given—new fountains of blessing opened. The dreaded cloud, big
with disaster, has passed. The financial loss has been compensated. The
shaft of death has been turned aside—the dear one hovering on the confines
of the dark valley has been restored. The chair in the family circle has not
been emptied. You have been spared the dreadful word which falls on the
heart like the crash of a descending avalanche.
To others—to you—He has been speaking by adversity; by
crushed hopes and blighted joys—early and unlooked-for graves.
Afflicted one! if your sorrows are great, have you not
had today vividly brought before you, in touching symbol, the memorial of
sufferings, in comparison with which, your deepest and intensest are light
indeed. In the contemplation of these, you have not only the revelation of
the Heart of a loving, sympathizing Savior, but the pledge and assurance
that the God who gave His Son would not, and could not, visit you with one
needless pang, or put one unnecessary thorn into your wreath of woe. Be
assured, it is for the spiritual good of His children that He sees fit, ever
and anon, to put a scar, so to speak, on His people's most treasured earthly
It is said in a striking passage of Isaiah—"The day of
the Lord Almighty shall be upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all
pleasant pictures" (Isaiah 2:12, 16). Yes, on these "pleasant pictures" He
deems it meet, at times, to stretch forth His hand, and sweep the portrayed
vision of gladness away—He may have seen it was eclipsing and dimming His
own likeness on the soul. You may remember the great Artist who painted the
lofty ceiling of the Roman Basilica. High up on the giddy platform, his eye
is on some 'pleasant picture,' on which he is just putting his finishing
touches. Absorbed in the triumph of his genius, he has left his position, in
order to obtain a broad, general view of the gigantic work. But he has
forgotten his danger. He is stepping back, and yet farther back, to the edge
of the scaffolding. A few inches more, and he will go reeling down to the
marble pavement, a hundred feet beneath.
What can save him? It is a moment of thrilling suspense.
Life is trembling in the balance—verily there is but a step between him and
death. One who was assisting sees, at a glance, the imminent peril. With the
speed of lightning, his determination is formed. On he dashes towards the
work of the Master, and, with apparently presumptuous hand, plants a deep
scar on the moist fresco. The Artist rushes forward to avert the blow. It
was enough—all the other needed—It destroyed the painting, but it saved the
more valued life. How often is this God's method of dealing! He sees us on
the world's giddy eminences—going back, back, back, to certain ruin. He
hastens to the rescue. He places a seemingly remorseless, destructive hand
on our most cherished objects of pursuit—blurs and scars life's loveliest
visions. He breaks our hearts, that He may save our souls! "The day of
the Lord Almighty is on all pleasant pictures!"
Seek to honor Him by unmurmuring submission to His holy
will. Let your chastisements, for the present not joyous but grievous, lead
you to live nearer Heaven and nearer Him. So that, if, at some subsequent
Communion season, you too should have your place vacant at the Sacred Feast,
your name may, like that of one mourned today, be missed by your fellows,
and never mentioned but with the sigh and the tear.
Ah, if this be a day on which we are compelled to take
count of blanks in the flock—sheep, that were used to pasture with us, no
longer to be found in the earthly fold; it is surely the most elevating of
Communion thoughts—(the word 'Communion' has no more hallowed
interpretation)—to behold them, with the eye of faith, up in yonder realms
of bliss, fed by the living fountains of waters in the presence and love of
the Heavenly Shepherd—their voices falling in soft music on our ear, and
charming us to follow after!